Christian leaders from across Birmingham joined together to provide an Easter Blessing on Good Friday.
The blessing, given through a group video call, was part of a “virtual faith walk” available online and intended to replace the physical Walk of Witness, held annually on Good Friday, through the streets of Birmingham. The Walk of Witness, which began in 2010, has in previous years attracted a procession of around 1,000 people from more than 16 local churches. Involving the closure of two major roads in Birmingham, the walk including singing, prayer and explanations of the Christian faith given in several languages.
Archbishop Bernard Longley expressed his sorrow that the annual walk was not physically possible this year in the blessing, which can be accessed online. Other participants in the blessing stressed the way in which the self-sacrifice of healthcare and other essential workers during the coronavirus outbreak followed in the spirit of Good Friday, and asked viewers to pray for all those affected by the crisis.
The leaders who participated in the blessing included Archbishop Longley himself, the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham David Urquhart, Reverend Steve Faber of the United Reformed Church, and Reverend Ian Howarth, a methodist. Civic leaders who were scheduled to participate in the physical walk, and are cited as supporters of the virtual walk, including the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Mohammed Azim
The Archdiocese’s liturgy for the virtual walk of witness, based around the meditations of St Alphonsus Liguori and praying the stations of the cross, is available online here.
The online blessing is one example of the adaptations to traditional Holy Week celebrations that Christians throughout the UK and further afield have made in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The Genesis Foundation plans to share the film of composer James MacMillan’s Stabat mater concert in the Sistine Chapel, at 7.30pm UK time on good friday, and many parishes and organisations are live-streaming liturgies or promoting private prayer through the internet. On Holy Saturday, the Cathedral of Turin have organised a prayer service involving a special showing of the Shroud of Turin, long purported to be the burial shroud of Jesus himself.